PGDE alumni Rhianne Quigley, Rex Walford Award winner 2017

This year’s Rex Walford Award asked entrants to produce a short scheme of work, covering at least three lessons that focused on the question ‘What is the geography of your favourite place?’

I was fortunate enough to start at Wales High School in September 2017, after completing my second school experience there the previous year during my PGDE. After a successful PGDE and a department I was very familiar with, I decided to enter a scheme of work for the Rex Walford award during the first half term of my NQT year. I was absolutely over the moon to be awarded with such a prestigious title, to be made a fellow of the society and receive a goody bag full of the perfect treats for a geographer. Map sticky notes, RGS pencils, globes and the best prize, a personalised OS map.

I created a scheme of work with five lessons, resources, detailed lesson plans and a thesis. The thesis justified my decision of my favourite place but further explored the importance of place geography within KS3. I chose this as a focus due to it’s introduction at KS5 under the new specifications of several exam boards. Taking on this task was challenging, especially as it was during the first half term of my NQT year. Not only was it a brand new school year with lesson planning mounting to ridiculous levels, I had started the MA APSE course with Sheffield University and I had to develop the best scheme of work I was capable of to get noticed in a nationwide competition.

However, I didn’t do it single headedly. I ensured that I took advice and guidance from the people around me during PGDE and NQT. Trainees and NQTs should be aware that the most valuable thing that will get you through the year is the knowledge, support and advice from the people around you. Whether that be your own mentor, another teacher in the department, the students that you teach or even your fellow PGDE course friends, use them. I know without the support of my university tutors, my geography department, my amazing classes and my ever reliable course friends, I wouldn’t have even thought about entering the Rex Walford award. They have guided me, inspired me, pushed me and made me the teacher I am today. I have a lot to thank them for and I hope the award is a reflection on their guidance.

It’s always difficult to give advice to trainees and NQTs, because the experience is one giant journey of discovery and learning, and it all falls into place over time. So I thought I would give some advice which is often overlooked. Firstly, never underestimate how long it takes students to glue sheets in or cut something out. It is normally a lot longer than what the lesson plan would allow for. Secondly, if for some reason you have to set cover, make sure it is very clear for other members of staff to follow. It is a great way to build positive relationships with colleagues. Thirdly, keep on top of your emails, you’ll get a good reputation if you reply and become pro-active. One I really struggled with and still often do, if your students are working in silence getting on with their work, leave them to it. Don’t pester them or try to fill the silence, embrace it. Lessons will go wrong, computers will break and memory sticks will be lost, but it will be ok. Finally, it is the students you teach who will mould you into the teacher you will become. I have been inspired by my classes and I am continuously in awe of their responses to geography and the world around them. Amongst the data, meetings, CPDs, observations, learning walks, assessments and marking, don’t lose sight of the pureness of your subject and your students. Keep a clear sight of why you went into teaching, I tell my students more than I should how much I love geography and I like to believe that when they see me getting excited over ox-bow lakes or global tourism they too can share that love and engage in my wonderful subject.

Rhianne Quigley

The Rex Walford Award is a national competition hosted by the Royal Geographic Society, as part of the Young Geographer of the Year competition. The Rex Walford Award is for trainees or teachers who have just started their careers, including students enrolled on a PGCE, Teach First and Schools Direct alongside NQTs and colleagues at a similar stage in their careers.

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Research at the School of Education, University of Sheffield. For more information about us, visit www.sheffield.ac.uk/education.

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